Staunton, August 23 – Yury Felstinsky, a US-based Russian political analyst, says that the situation of Belarus now is as hopeless as was Poland’s in 1939 because it faces a committed enemy – Moscow – and, as a result of Russian efforts, cannot count on the effective support of either NATO, the EU, or the West more generally.
In comments to Poland’s Niezalezna, Felshtinsky says that in fact, despite everything, Alyaksandr Lukashenka “has more allies in Europe than he did in earlier years” and that “not all politicians, even in the EU, are ready to condemn him and warn Putin against aggression” (niezalezna.pl/347848-jurij-felsztynski-specjalnie-dla-codziennej-lukaszenka-z-prezydenta-przerodzil-sie-w-tyrana, in Russian at gordonua.com/publications/lukashenko-zakonchit-libo-puley-libo-begstvom-drugih-variantov-zdes-net-felshtinskiy-v-intervyu-gazeta-polska-1514911.html).
As a result, he continues, “Belarus now unfortunately is in a uniquely hopeless situation, like Poland in 1939 before the German-Soviet invasion.” Neither the EU nor NATO are prepared to do more than threaten sanctions, while under existing treaties, “Putin has the right to introduce forces into Belarus at any time that is convenient to him.”
To expect Putin to refrain from doing so is naïve, Felshtinsky says. He believes and keeps saying that “Belarus is part of the Russian Federation, that the Belarusian people does not exist, and that there never was a Belarusian state until ‘the greatest catastrophe of 1991’ occurred, the consequences of which Putin has made it his task to liquidate.”
Merkel and Macron have threatened sanctions if Putin does move, “but this word no longer frightens him.” And “of course, it is very important that all this is happening at a time when America has withdrawn from European affairs. At least, from the American president, we aren’t hearing criticism of Lukashenka.”
“This is no accident,” Felshtinsky argues. “Lukashenka as a president who is fighting with his own people for the right to remain in power at any price is Donald Trump’s ideal. And this is yet another reason why the Belarusian people is in such an extremely difficult and dangerous position. There is no one to defend it.”
“Trump is on Lukashenka’s side, and Europe without America for Lukashenka is a much smaller force than Putin who is operating on the silent support of Trump on the Belarusian issue.” Moreover, within Belarus, only the people are against Lukashenka, not parts of his own regime.
While it is likely that Lukashenka will end his political career either with a bullet or flight – “there are no other variants,” Felshtinsky says – the price that Moscow will impose and that the Belarusian people without outside support will be forced to pay is almost certain to be extremely high.
Putin would have moved against Belarus earlier had it not been for the Maidan in Ukraine. That forced him to focus on Kyiv rather than Minsk. But now he has every reason to focus on Belarus, confident that he has divided and weakened both NATO and the European Union.
As a result, “Belarus today is defenseless; and because Putin know this defenselessness could end for example with the coming to power in the White House of a new administration … we are entering a very dangerous period, all the more so because historically August and September have often been chosen by an aggressor for launching military actions in Europe.”
If Putin succeeds in joining Belarus to Russia, the strategic map of Europe will be “dramatically changed;” and that could set the stage for Moscow to threat the Baltic countries given that “like Belarus,” they were from Moscow’s perspective “part of the Soviet Union,” Felshtinsky continues.
As long as Trump is US president, NATO won’t come to the defense of the Baltic states in the event of a Russian move against them -- even if they are members of the Western alliance. And the Kremlin leader may very well use “a nuclear option,” not involving bombs but rather nuclear power stations in the region.
Poland today has “three levels of defense: NATO, the European Union and Poland itself. Belarus, besides its freedom-loving people now has no real defenders.” Putin knows this and will act accordingly. Lukashenka should exit the scene, but like most tyrants, he can’t imagine doing so. Tragically, the Belarusian people and not just this dictator will pay a high price for that.